Fort Smallwood Road was just two lanes in 1946 when Burton Boyer opened his gas station: four pumps, one bay and service with a smile.
He presided with a cigar in his mouth and a roll of bills in the pocket of his uniform shirt, and lived to see the station grow by one service bay and the road double in width. He died, though, before progress would swallow his station whole and bring forth something he probably wouldn't recognize as the old place.
"Boyer's Amoco Temporarily Closed" says the sign out front. "We'll Be Back."
By spring 1992 the corner of Fort Smallwood and Sycamore near Riviera Beach will be occupied by another in a generation of gas station/convenience store hybrids. Twenty-four hours a day the lights will be lighted, the 36 self-service pumps will pump, the littlemarket will offer a selection of grocery items. The service bays andthe mechanics will be gone along with the gas jockeys. Three full-time and one part-time station attendants are out of work.
Their workplace closed Saturday night at 9 o'clock, when the lights went out at the old station for the last time. Ed Boyer, who followed his grandfather and his father in the business, was there at closing time.
"It's sad to see it go," Boyer said Wednesday. "But you have to change with the times or you won't be around."
"Only one landmark left here now," said Tom Meise, 61, a former station worker. He referred to Rusty's Pub next door, which has been a tavern under three different owners for at least 55 years,
said Rusty Bowman, the new owner. Bowman grew up in Riviera Beach and remembered Burton Boyer as "one of the nicest people I ever met."
Late Wednesday afternoon, Ed Boyer stood by the concrete-block station as dead leaves scuttled across the asphalt into the gaping mouth of a vacant service bay. Broken asphalt lay in a heap by the Amoco sign. Boyer pointed toward the pile, to a mark on the ground where the old pumps were when Burton opened the station. Boyer, 37, remembers how the pumps were shunted a few yards to the south when Fort Smallwood Road was widened in 1977.
Boyer started working in the station, alongside his grandfather and his father, when he was 14 years old. He'd pump gas, change oil, whatever he could do. He was young, but not as young as his father was when hestarted working alongside Burton Boyer. Ed Boyer said his father told him he was 6 years old when he started helping out at the station.
"I remember he used to say he'd stand on those wooden Coke boxes" to reach things, Ed Boyer said.
Roland grew up around the station and took over the business from Burton in 1972. Roland passed the baton to Ed Boyer in 1984, the year he died at 53. Burton died in his 80s in 1987.
Ed Boyer expanded the family business, opening an Amocofood shop and self-service station in Linthicum in 1987, then a station with mechanic service in Pasadena in 1991.
For the last five years, Boyer said he's been negotiating with Amoco for a food store/gas station on Fort Smallwood Road. The increase in traffic convinced the oil company that it was time for a change.
"Amoco decided when the volume picked up, we better change it to all self-service," said Boyer.
So the quiet postwar corner that Burton Boyer knew is readyto move headlong into the 1990s, where you pump your own gas, wash your own windshield and the attendant is a nameless face behind the glass.